PASADENA — The man charged with the fatal shooting of a Glendale boy in 2004 struggled to testify in court Tuesday as tears streamed down his face while recounting the incident.
Carlos Palma, 20, took the stand in his own defense a day after prosecutors wrapped up their case against him and 21-year-old Julian Martinez — both of Echo Park — in the shooting death of 16-year-old Carlos Pinon in Glendale.
Before Palma's testimony, Superior Court Judge Candace Beason dismissed a juror who was complaining of anxiety.
Defense lawyers quizzed the juror on her ability to perform in what might be a "heated" jury room and eventually urged for her dismissal.
She was replaced by one of three alternate jurors during a recess before Palma took the stand and, at the prompting of his lawyer, took jurors through the series of events on Dec. 30, 2004, that led to Pinon's death.
"I shot the gun," Palma said.
The admission at once visibly affected not only Palma, but his friends and family in the audience as they all struggled to contain tears and sobbing.
As the climax of that night's story rang through the courtroom, jurors sat still and stone-faced as Palma wiped his eyes.
In his version of how that night unfolded was the contention that he used the gun in self-defense after he thought a group of boys that included Pinon were about to shoot at his car.
Martinez picked him up that night for a ride to Palma's girlfriend's house in Eagle Rock, he said. But Martinez took a detour to Glendale, where he hoped to meet up with a girl.
During that drive Richard Garcia, a passenger in the front seat, handed him a gun, Palma said.
"I tapped him on the shoulder and said, 'What the [expletive] is this for?'" he recalled.
Palma did not get an answer, he said.
They picked up the girl, Tania Espinoza, and were soon confronted by 15-year-old Juan Baltran and others, who ordered the girl out of the car and told the boys to leave the area, Palma said. She got out of the car, but they did not leave the area, he said. Instead, they drove to a house party near the corner of Justin Avenue and Lake Street in Glendale, where they knew Espinoza would be, he said.
That's when Baltran, Pinon and another boy "rushed" the car, he said.
"He was all, 'What the [expletive] are you doing back here?'" Palma said.
That's when Palma said he saw one of the boys reach for what looked like the handle of a gun tucked in his waistband.
"Did you try to shoot the person with the gun?" Palma's lawyer, Robert Conley asked.
"I don't know what I was trying to do," Palma replied.
Palma continued to fire the gun because he thought he saw another boy rushing back to their car, he said.
Glendale Police testified that no weapons were found on or near Pinon's body.
Deputy District Atty. Martin Bean had little time to cross examine Palma before Beason recessed the trial Tuesday.
The trial is scheduled to continue today, and Martinez is also expected to take the stand, his lawyer said.